Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ulysses Wednesday #8

  Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce's tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

  Status:  page 400 of 783.

  I've made progress!  I'm halfway done!  I still don't understand most of what I'm reading!

  There has been one - ONE - chapter (12 or 13 depending on which reference I consult, the edition I am reading does not mark them) which almost reads like a normal novel; in which Leopold is relaxing along the sea and encounters Gerty MacDowell.  At first it seems rather boring (though comprehensible) - a group of girls along with the young brothers of one of them are enjoying the pleasant evening within earshot of the Mass being held at the church nearby.  Gerty is bored with this scene, and notices Leopold watching her; they acknowledge each other and, well, let's just say their encounter is consummated from afar.  The description of course is very symbolic but leaves no doubt as to what is happening (Fireworks!).  It seems tame compared to how these scenes can be described nowadays, but I can see how this chapter would have caused an outcry back in the day.
  The next chapter (13 or 14) takes me back to confusion.  Joyce is apparently experimenting with styles of different authors in English literature in chronological order, and though I get that he has gone to the maternity hospital to visit someone I have no idea what else is happening.  *Sigh*  One step forward, two steps back.


  1. Just stopping by all the blogs I follow – have been out of town and am feeling out of touch. Thought I would check in with everyone! Stop by The Wormhole if you get a chance!

  2. Hey, great news.

    The Maternity Hospital is nicknamed the Oxen of the Sun, as it is when Ulysses' guys commit blasphemy.

    So what is happening is that there are a bunch of medical students getting drunk at the same time as a mother is giving birth (a blasphemy against Life) ; so is the English language, and at the end of the novel, the language itself gets drunk. Joyce is setting up a double perspective, between the voice of the parodied authors and what is really going on. If you stick with it, the narration makes sense (it's not even stream of consciousness) even if the style is deliberately pastiche, all about yclept Bloom and whatnot.

    (You mentioned the Gertie chapter: that is a pastiche of the style of women's magazines--a crippled style, like Gertie...)

    For the story, this sets up the relationship between Bloom and Stephen (which all along it has been heading towards). The drunken young men will go to a red light district, in which all is hallucination--this is one of the best chapters--don't take it literally it is a psychodrama, with a dream overtone as everyone is so drunk they are passing out. Bloom rescues Stephen, and sobers him up and takes him home.

  3. I'm still dead set on reading this novel! In the meantime, I'm loving your updates.

  4. Thank you Ed for shining the light into this cave known as Ulysses.

    Lisa, thank you! I wonder if we could ever convince Rebecca to select this one ...

  5. I did make a sort of a slip there. I meant to say at the end of the chapter he gets the English language drunk. It actually sobers up a bit at the cabmans's shelter later on, but it will be pretty rolicking for a while. The medical students will all go off to the red light district. It is the Circe chapter--Circe the enchantress turned Ulysses' men into pigs--pretty appropriate, huh? There will be magic afoot, hallucination. The chapter is one of the funniest parts.....


What do you think? Good or bad, I'd love to hear from you (but be nice - I'm sensitive!)